A white spotty dress may not seem like the ideal attire for someone who spends her life worrying about periods and whose menstrual tracking app tells her that day one of her period is due imminently.
And yet tomorrow this period poverty campaigner will be joining hundreds of others in wearing just that.
Why am I channeling the spirit of a 1970s tampon commercial and risking the unholy alliance of a heavy period and a white outfit?
Because Thursday 22nd August marks Hot4TheSpot’s ‘Wear the Dress Day’, a chance for owners of *that* Zara dress to join together in polka dot triumph in aid of the Free Periods campaign to tackle period poverty.
As a director of Free Periods (and a proud owner of the dress), I am excited to have this opportunity to share our mission anew. We are delighted to have played our part in securing government funding for free period products in all English schools and colleges, beginning in January 2020, but there is still so much work to do.
In the UK, our aim is to ensure that the provision of free products is rolled out effectively in England, that the progress we have already seen in Scotland and Wales is maintained and that equivalent provision is made in Northern Ireland (where the ongoing political impasse has made policy change as yet unattainable).
In all cases, we wish to see policies for free menstrual products in schools and colleges enshrined in legislation, with long-term, sustainable and ring-fenced funding commitments.
The disenfranchisement that begins when a child misses out on their education has an enduring, insidious effect for a lifetime. It is not acceptable that the provision of this basic necessity could become subject to the vagaries of incumbent politicians.
We are also eager to build a global community of period poverty activists with whom we can share our experiences of building a grassroots movement, political lobbying and legal campaigning. We want to support others who are fighting for young people to have access to the period products they need.
We are equally determined to tackle the stifling stigma that persists around periods. As Amika George, Free Periods Founder, says ‘Period taboo still runs deep, and positioning something that’s natural and normal as dirty and shameful pulls us further away from our collective goal of achieving gender equality.
‘We want everyone to believe that periods are not embarrassing, that we all have horror stories, that everyone’s period experiences can be different, and we want to invite men into that dialogue.’
As a movement that began with a viral petition, we firmly believe in the power of online activism. We so often hear of the negatives of social media, but Free Periods stands as testament to the power of building a virtual community to make positive change in the offline world. Social media has disrupted our political landscape and we can all now fight for a seat at the table.
The dress phenomenon, and Faye Oakenfull’s brilliantly positive @Hot4TheSpot Instagram, have similarly underlined the capacity of an online community to empower its members. This charming army of dress-lovers, mobilised in support of Free Periods are an excellent reminder, especially in such trying times, that kindness and compassion prevail.
So, let us all wear our spotty dresses on Thursday in honour of a sisterhood that puts two fingers up at our treacherous ‘Who wore it best?’ magazine culture and in aid of a campaign that is striving to ensure that periods don’t hold any child back from reaching their potential.
Artist Yayoi Kusama once said, ‘With just one polka dot, nothing can be achieved.’
With a sea of polka dots, I believe we can make a real difference.
Wear the Dress Day is on Thursday 22nd August. Please wear your favourite polka dots, or look out for others in the dress, and donate £3 to Free Periods here: http://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/freeperiodsxhot4thespot
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